WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Interbrand Group v. Louise Hunt
Case No. D2017-0690
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Interbrand Group of London, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (“United Kingdom”), represented by Lewis Silkin LLP, United Kingdom.
The Respondent is Louise Hunt of Gold River, California, United States of America (“United States”).
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <interbrnd.com> is registered with Domain.com, LLC (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on April 6, 2017. On April 6, 2017, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On April 6, 2017, the Registrar transmitted by email to the Center its verification response confirming that the Respondent is listed as the registrant and providing the contact details.
The Center verified that the Complaint satisfied the formal requirements of the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the “Policy” or “UDRP”), the Rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the “Rules”), and the WIPO Supplemental Rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the “Supplemental Rules”).
In accordance with the Rules, paragraphs 2 and 4, the Center formally notified the Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on April 12, 2017. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was May 2, 2017. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on May 3, 2017.
The Center appointed Andrew F. Christie as the sole panelist in this matter on May 11, 2017. The Panel finds that it was properly constituted. The Panel has submitted the Statement of Acceptance and Declaration of Impartiality and Independence, as required by the Center to ensure compliance with the Rules, paragraph 7.
4. Factual Background
The Complainant is a well-known branding agency whose “Best Global Brands” annual report has been referenced many times over the last two decades by news publications including The New York Times, The Economist, The Guardian and The Wall Street Journal. The Complainant is recognized internationally as an authority on branding. It has a number of offices around the world including in Europe, the Americas, Asia and Australia.
The Complainant is the owner of numerous trademark registrations around the world for the word trademark INTERBRAND, including a European Union Trade Mark registration filed April 1, 1996, and registered February 25, 2002, and a United States of America trademark registration filed February 9, 1998, and registered August 17, 1999.
The Complainant has provided a Witness Statement made on April 4, 2017, by Mr. Aaron Newell, a Managing Associate at the Complainant’s representative. Mr. Newell states that the phone number provided in the WhoIs details for the registrant of the disputed domain name appears to be disconnected, and that the registrant’s email address does not match the name of the registrant but appears instead to refer to two other individuals: Andy Sokol and Jeanette Sokol. These two facts suggest that there is an attempt to conceal the identity of the Respondent, and that the owner of the email address may not be the registrant and the named Respondent. Mr. Newell conducted a reverse WhoIs search in respect of the registrant’s email address and found that it is linked to a number of domain name registrations each of which has a slight typographical variation compared with a very similar domain name owned and used by an international business. The Respondent appears, therefore, to be a typosquatter.
The disputed domain name was registered on January 8, 2017. The Complainant has provided screenshots from April 5, 2017, showing that the disputed domain name resolved to a website containing click-through advertising links. As of the date of this decision, the disputed domain name resolves to such a website.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant contends that the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark in which the Complainant has rights because it is the Complainant’s trademark INTERBRAND except for a typographical error, and is near-identical to the Complainant’s trademark INTERBRAND, sharing the first seven letters, sharing nine of ten letters, and only differing by way of the omission of the letter “a” in the second part of the word.
The Complainant contends that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name because: (i) there has been no evidence of the Respondent’s use of, or demonstrable preparations to use, the disputed domain name or a name corresponding to the disputed domain name, in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services; (ii) the Respondent, as an individual, business, or other organization, has never been commonly known by the disputed domain name; and (iii) the Respondent is not making a legitimate or fair use of the disputed domain name, but intends, for commercial gain, to use it to misleadingly divert consumers or to tarnish the Complainant’s trademark.
The Complainant contends that the disputed domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith because: (i) it was registered or acquired primarily for the purpose of selling, renting, or otherwise transferring the disputed domain name registration to the owner of the trademark or to a competitor of the Complainant, for valuable consideration in excess of the Respondent’s out-of-pocket costs directly related to the disputed domain name; (ii) it was registered in order to prevent the owner of the trademark from reflecting that mark in a corresponding domain name; (iii) it was registered for the purpose of disrupting the Complainant’s business; (iv) by using it, the Respondent intentionally attempted to attract Internet users to the Respondent’s website or other on-line location for commercial gain, by creating a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant’s trademark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of the Respondent’s website or location of a product or service on the Respondent’s website or location; and (v) the Respondent registered and used it with the intention of creating confusion to the unfair detriment of the Complainant, its customers and the general public.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The disputed domain name incorporates the dominant part of the Complainant’s registered word trademark INTERBRAND, with the absence of the eighth letter “a”. Visually and aurally, the disputed domain name is virtually identical to the Complainant’s INTERBRAND trademark. The Panel concludes that the omission of the letter “a” supports a finding of confusing similarity between the disputed domain name and the Complainant’s INTERBRAND trademark. Accordingly, the Panel finds that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to a trademark in which the Complainant has rights.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
The Respondent is not a licensee of, or otherwise affiliated with, the Complainant, and has not been authorized by the Complainant to use its INTERBRAND trademark. The Respondent has not provided any evidence that it has been commonly known by, or has made a bona fide use of, the disputed domain name, or that it has, for any other reason, rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. The evidence provided by the Complainant shows that the disputed domain name was used to resolve to a website containing click-through advertising links to businesses unrelated to the Complainant. According to the present record, therefore, the disputed domain name is not being used in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services, or for a legitimate noncommercial or fair use. Accordingly, the Panel finds that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
The disputed domain name was registered many years after the Complainant first registered its INTERBRAND trademark. The evidence on the record provided by the Complainant with respect to its use of its INTERBRAND trademark, combined with the absence of any evidence provided by the Respondent to the contrary, is sufficient to satisfy the Panel that, at the time of registration of the disputed domain name, the Respondent knew of the Complainant’s trademark and knew that it had no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. Furthermore, the evidence on the record provided by the Complainant with respect to the Respondent’s use of the disputed domain name indicates that the Respondent has used the disputed domain name to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to a website by creating confusion in the minds of the public as to an association between the website and the Complainant. Accordingly, the Panel finds that the disputed domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
For the foregoing reasons, in accordance with paragraphs 4(i) of the Policy and 15 of the Rules, the Panel orders that the disputed domain name <interbrnd.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Andrew F. Christie
Date: May 25, 2017